Neylan McBaine, Co-founder and CEO of Better Days 2020, and founder of the Mormon Women Project, delivered an inspiring presentation for the Public Affairs Lecture Series on Thursday, February 8, 2018, at the Kennedy Center conference room, 238 HRCB. She spoke about being raised by an opera singer and a Wall Street attorney in New York City, studying at Yale University, and working at Walmart.com in digital marketing. Currently she heads up the Better Days 2020 organization, which celebrates the 150th anniversary of women first voting in Utah (the first women to vote in the modern United States of America) and the centennial of the 19th Amendment, offering women the right to vote, and the culmination of the women’s suffrage movement in the US. She is helping pass legislation to send the statue of Martha Hughes Cannon, Utah’s first elected State Senator (the first in the country), to Washington, DC to stand in place of Philo T. Farnsworth (the “father of television”) in the main National Statuary Hall of the U.S. Congress on Capitol Hill, not far from the statue of Brigham Young.
She advised BYU students that it is possible to do something so interesting, and so different, from your original plan and formal education, different than anything you have ever planned before, and she wished she had been told that as a young student. She was raised to become a doctor, lawyer or investment banker. Those were her only options, at least that’s what she thought, as a Yale student with professional parents in New York City. Being an advocate for women was not on the table. She became a primary parent of three daughters while her husband worked, and as he studied at Harvard, and she had no model for how to juggle a career and marriage and a family.
Her advice to students: Get a strong foundation with the best education available, and the best job possible at the beginning of a career; find out what makes you happy; determine what success means to you (this takes courage), and it might be something other than making money, like, family, public speaking, managing people, teaching, etc.; be the kind of person you want to be, no matter your profession, things will build on each other if you are true to yourself; and be grateful for the unscripted changes that force you to be creative and to find out what makes you happy. Finally, she learned how to write well, and that was the most important thing to do in order to become a professional: learn how to craft an argument and write concisely.
Thank you, Neylan, for a wonderful presentation.